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Should I move on from Architecture??

Thesefourcorners

Hello from Australia! I graduated with a bachelor of architectural studies last year and then worked in a firm for a few months. I quit after finding the profession to be very business and corporate centred (long hours, little reward). I have since enrolled in a Master of Secondary Teaching (Design & Technology). I graduated with a distinction average and worked very very long hours on ideas/projects. I am now wondering whether I quit too soon and should have tried another job or if I should just move on…

 
Feb 1, 24 12:21 pm
Non Sequitur

you quit after working only a few weeks?  Obviously you did not get enough exposure to the professional world.  Yes, it's a hard discipline and there are loads of aspects of the job that are long and tedious and since the real world resolves around money and not unicorns, business is important... but with that said, there are plenty of offices that make it work without treating their staff like garbage.  Sounds like you just got into a shitty office.

I guess you did zero research about the world of architecture prior to and while completing your bachelors.  Try not to repeat this mistake as you move on in your career choices.

Feb 1, 24 1:13 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

Thanks for your comment. I worked for 3 months in an architectural firm after graduating as well as working for the planning & design department for a large retailer and I did professional work experience.

Feb 1, 24 5:05 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

Yeah I do agree I may have landed in a position that wasn’t well suited to me. My peers, including myself, have found it very difficult to find any work since graduating and often have to settle for whatever position we can find. Perhaps I’ll give it another go in a different office. Thanks!

Feb 1, 24 5:07 pm  · 
1  · 

Academia is bullshit fantasy world. EVERYTHING outside of academia and bullshit fantasy idealism world is about business, money, etc. Everybody is trying to squeeze every penny's worth out of the people paid to do a service. Guess what, that's the real world that you would have known had you had ANY job outside of the academic institution and where their mind and interest are. No shit... welcome to the REAL world. If you don't like the real world that you quit because it isn't like the bullshit fantasy of academia, then you are not worth being employed by ANY employer in ANY occupation outside academia that isn't concerned about real world. They are institutions built in institutional systems that insulates them from real world in large part. In the real world, you deal with those "evil" concerns that are "evil" in the idealism of academia that doesn't function in the same reality that occurs outside the academic campus. So welcome to the real world. Shit can idealism of academia from any expectation in the real world work environment in any occupation. We are in a capitalism based real world where everything is about money and people in the real world are more Ferengi-like in their ethos than they are in academia. This isn't to say everyone is going to be full on Ferengi-like but like Yankee traders and other profit and money-centered interest are at play, guess what.... it's about money. So if you find a job at any place in any occupation, be prepared that it is much more money-driven mindset because guess fucking right, that is the concern for the owners of any business. Their money comes from the success of their businesses. Put aside childish idealism and get with the program of real world reality and wake up to it and become a real adult in a real world with real world reality and deal with it. This isn't to say you can't encourage SOME of the ideals towards making a better real world with better real world architecture BUT do keep in mind that you deal with real people and it is about money and money concerns are at the heart of every decision made by YOU the professional and the decisions the clients make. They are driven by money. It's business. When you work for an architectural firm, you may or may not have direct involvement on those concerns on the immediate level but your bosses are.

Feb 2, 24 3:20 pm  · 
1  ·  1

There is not a client on this planet that isn't going to expect you to work your ass off and practically dedicate every second you are awake towards their project because they all, ironically, like your professors, subconsciously think that they are your sole client that, there would be a person or team dedicating 100% of their time to their project. You do have to work hard in any business that is a professional service establishment providing professional/consultation-based service to clients. It yields less money per labor hour as a business type than most manufacturing/production oriented businesses as far as max potential yield. This isn't like manufacturing a product where you can essentially automate and manufacture / sell units of a product in millions and make potentially over a billion dollars. This isn't that kind of business. The richest architecture firm, like one or two makes over a billion dollars a year. Most are far less than half a billion dollars. They are also international firms with lots of employees to form project teams for mostly large projects where they get their better yield. Most architects won't even get income in that scale. Now some integrated developer-architect/engineer-construction businesses makes more money than Gensler. So, there you have it. One way to make decent money in the profession is to charge decent amount of money so even when you have to put in 20 hour days for 2-3 day stretches with 8-12 hours a day being pretty normal in working in any professional service establishments. Lawyers will often have long days, too. The thing is they can usually make much better pay because what they are doing is more important and essential to clients. Buildings are vanity and not absolutely necessary. Doctors deals with critical immediate life or death decisions with clients that if the client wants to live, they get that doctor and pay and more willing to pay. A lawyer is your defense in lawsuit or your means to recover money or the person between you and a jail cell. What they do is of a cognitively higher importance in most people's mind so they pay. However, in this profession of designing buildings, your clients are expecting you and/or your team work your ass off. In my personal experience, I have to put in typically 20+ hours a week directly to billable work towards the client's work and I have plenty of other work on top of the direct work. As a building designer, running my own business, this means my utilization rate would almost never be 100% of the total hours. For me to attain 100% utilization rate of a typical 2080 full-time year means I would be have easily 1000+ hours of overtime on top of that 2080 hours. As it usually the case as a firm owner who does the project work and not just assign it to employees and maybe spend a little of my time to review the work throughout the preparation but actually prepare the work, directly, I have to spend at least 15 hours a week but sometimes up to 25 hours a weeks if I am working on two concurrent projects. That's a practical limit of how many concurrent projects a week. We can see exceptions where there might be 3-4 projects that I devoted time to during a particular week. It is not uncommon for me to work weekends in addition to the weekdays. That's the way it is in this profession. A junior-level employee might have 70-100% of their work hours dedicated to billable work. That is not unusual. More senior staff with some managerial role might have 60-80% of their labor hours dedicated to billable work. Principals are usually around 30% to 65% utilization rate. Despite popular myths, not every important hour of labor spent is considered billable hours. Your a junior staff, a lot of your time will be spent on billable labor at a relatively lower pay rate which is a way for firms to save on labor cost and have a decent profit margin all while also being competitive. You would be paid just enough that you might not get overtime. Sometimes an exemption exists in places. Considering office work working at a computers is not considered physically laborious like say a construction laborer might be doing. You either are on a fixed salary with no overtime pay or you are on a fixed wage rate with no multiplier. It is not all that uncommon. You might see your bosses in and out of the office but they are working. For the principals, they are frequently meeting prospective clients and procuring work. That's their principal job so you have a job and be paid as well as they pay themselves, of course. Upper and intermediate experienced staff are often going to project sites, meetings, etc. Their day doesn't necessarily stop when the office closes up for the day. They may close the office at 5pm but then continue work relating to projects by attending meetings with design review committees, planning commissions, and the likes with regards to their client projects and sometimes town hall sessions with communities that are often scheduled during evening hours after work so members of the public that have to work 8am-5pm can attend. This is real world. This is how it is. In a profession, it isn't just a job but a way of life.

Feb 2, 24 4:11 pm  · 
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JLC-1

Most jobs in the world are long hours (for a long while) and little (instant) reward. good luck in your next gig.


Feb 1, 24 1:16 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

^This. 

We are a small office at 20ish staff so we typically don't have a large rotating pool of junior staff but I make a big effort with those we have to take time to answer their questions regardless of how fucking swamped I am (whish is all the time). I will drop what I'm doing and answer their questions and give them 10 examples if I need to  because I want them to understand that asking for help is part of the gig. I, like most 15+ y exp architects, was trained in the 20hr/day studio mindset. I will pick-up my projects later in the evening if it means the younger staff don't get stressed thinking they need to pull 12hr+ days.

Feb 1, 24 1:25 pm  · 
6  · 

That's why you're one of the good ones.

Feb 1, 24 4:09 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

Good points. Thank you

Feb 1, 24 5:07 pm  · 
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whistler

Even years after opening my own office not every project becomes a "design darling" in our quiver of projects.  We don't take jobs for cash flow but clearly some projects have the budget and desire from the client to be a special project and so there are definitely highlights but that doesn't mean it's easy designing those either they probably take the most effort to pull off to a level of satisfaction of everyone.  Helps when everyone including the contractor is up for the challenge too.

Feb 1, 24 1:50 pm  · 
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t a z

It's impossible to give constructive feedback without more context of the "worked for a few months" experience.

Feb 1, 24 2:08 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

I’m the first person I know studying/working in architecture and therefore, I didn’t have a good understanding of the reality of it before starting. I did well in the degree because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and when I work on something, I work very hard. I think I may be experiencing some burn out after my degree and jumping straight into a corporate environment may not have been a good idea. Thanks for your comment.

Feb 1, 24 5:11 pm  · 
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Wood Guy

There's a well-known problem with architectural education in that it doesn't adequately prepare you for the working world. But if it did, it would be a trade school, not a professional education. 

Feb 1, 24 7:23 pm  · 
2  · 
Thesefourcorners

True! Thanks

Feb 1, 24 7:54 pm  · 
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luvu

Long hours , low pay , high stress / this also is still the case with teaching job as well … be warned

Feb 1, 24 7:28 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

Thanks…Just trying to weigh up my options. Might try working in another practice first.

Feb 1, 24 7:55 pm  · 
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sameolddoctor

Most corporate environment are more easygoing than boutique firms. if you are having trouble wit corporate, thats no good...

Feb 1, 24 8:08 pm  · 
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Thesefourcorners

A lot of people in my firm expressed their dissatisfaction with the profession and said they advise most people to stay away from architecture. This was quite disheartening for me as I was just starting out. Perhaps it was just the firm.

Feb 1, 24 8:19 pm  · 
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sameolddoctor

Hmm yes a lot of people in corporate gigs are super jaded (me included). We mostly go to those gigs for the $$$ but later find out the work sucks AND the $$$ is not great either.

Feb 1, 24 8:29 pm  · 
1  · 
lacalr

I'd recommend trying to find a practice that focuses on their personnel and culture, and then their work. Which I think is easier said then done. But maybe you try to work at a firm that doesn't have a built in "grind" mentality for a few years and then pivot once you know more of what type of work/firm you want to do. There are plenty of different options within the field for designers/architects, you just gotta find the one that works best for your individual situation.

I know federal and government work has its own challenges, but the two firms I have worked at in this sector, both roughly 15 people, have focused on fostering a supportive culture and good work life balance. Similar to what Non said a few comments back though, once you get far enough up the ranks, the hours and balance seem to become somewhat more blurry...

Feb 2, 24 10:09 am  · 
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Thesefourcorners

Thanks for the feedback!

Feb 2, 24 5:57 pm  · 
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